This year in Orange County, elections are being run in order to ensure the safety of the health of voters. First, every registered voter in California will receive a ballot, and each person will have 3 choices on how to vote. The options are as follows: to vote in person at a vote center, to mail in the ballot, or to drop off a ballot at a drop-off location. The OC Registrar of Voters has informed us that voters will have a five-day period, from October 30 to November 3, to utilize vote centers. One vote center for every 50,000 registered voters is required by the Voters Choice Act, and at a vote center one can register to vote, vote in person, or drop off a ballot.
Because of COVID-19, these vote centers will implement new health and safety guidelines to protect staff and voters, and will have larger voting rooms to facilitate social distancing. In addition, ballot drop-off boxes will be placed around the City and at least one drop box for every 15,000 registered voters will be required. The locations for the drop-offs are yet to be decided, however, following the Voters Choice Act, they are to be secure, accessible to voters with disabilities, and located as near as possible to public transportation routes. The precise locations of the vote centers and ballot drop boxes will be finalized in late September, and this list will be mailed to every voter as part of the Voter Information Guide.
The third option for voting is mail-in ballots (also known as Absentee Ballots), and these will be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, November 3, and received no later than 17 days after Election Day.
Some people feel concerned about how secure mail-in voting is, and whether their vote will count. These voters can rest assured knowing that many strategies are in place.
First of all, numerous studies have shown that cases of mail-in voting fraud are rare (0.00025%). Any attempt at fraud is most likely discovered, and Orange County has several screening procedures before counting a vote.
To prevent duplication and filling out of vote-by-mail ballots, Orange County prints ballot paper with a special tint along with having strict security in place to protect ballot paper. Ballot printers in California must be certified by the Secretary of State of California and must meet strict security requirements. Vote-by-mail ballots also need a verified signature of the voter, and that signature must match the signature on file. The ballot must be returned in the envelope it was delivered in, in order to be counted.
With all the safety protocols and studies showing the rarity of mail-in voter fraud, voting by mail is a viable and secure option. People benefit from this form of voting because it helps them avoid contact with people, and it is convenient.
Orange County voting trends show that mail-in voting was becoming increasingly popular well before COVID-19. In fact, in special elections, more people have been voting by mail than in person at polling places since 2005.
Today, the idea of mail-in voting has been politicized, especially with recent comments from the President connecting mail-in voting to “election fraud.” In reality, it’s likely that many of his votes were cast through mail-in voting, since the 2016 Presidential Primary shows that 29.2% of people voted by mail versus 20.3% who voted at polling places.
Recent comments from Trump reveal his strong position on mail-in voting. He said in a White House briefing regarding the Coronavirus, “No, mail ballots, they cheat. OK, people cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they [people] are cheaters.”
However, although President Trump has voiced strong disapproval of mail-in voting and has continued his vocal objections very close to the upcoming election, he has actually benefitted from mail-in voting in the past.
Regardless of political belief, and whether you cast a ballot in person or through mail, voting is of utmost importance for the electorate of our country to have their voices heard.